Photo by Hubble Ray Smith.
KINGMAN – Desert dwellers in rural Arizona have to find ways to augment their water supply if they want to leave any for their children and grandchildren, Mohave County Supervisor Steve Moss said Monday at the Conservative Republican Club of Kingman monthly luncheon.
You can’t stop farmers from farming and you can’t stop residents from turning on their tap, Moss said during his hour-long presentation to about 30 Republican Club members.
As for what can be done, the most common idea is to recharge aquifers by treating wastewater and capturing what little runoff that comes from the mountains, he said.
“It may not be sufficient for recharge, but it is a step, even if it’s a baby step,” the supervisor from Mohave Valley said. “We’ve got to take 100 steps, maybe get a small percentage here and a small percentage there. We need to take steps to solve the problem.”
Moss said it’s going to take “creativity” to solve the water problem, and the state has three fine universities with a lot of smart people looking at this issue.
Arizona gets its water from two sources: surface water such as lakes, rivers and streams; and groundwater from aquifers such as the Hualapai Basin that serves and Kingman and the Sacramento Basin that serves Golden Valley.
The groundwater law is simple: If you own the land, you can drop a well and pump away, no matter how it affects your neighbor, Moss said.
The only restrictions are in Active Management Areas (AMA) and Irrigation Non-Expansion Areas (INA), which are governed by the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
It’s also going to require a cooperative effort from affected counties such as Mohave, La Paz and Cochise to modify some of the existing laws, he said.
“There are a lot of things to be done. Some of it is legal, some of it is pragmatic,” Moss said. “ADWR’s current philosophy is unless there’s an emergency, they’re not going to deal with it.”
Water has become a major issue in Mohave County over the last four years, especially after a couple of large farming companies came in and started drilling more wells, but it’s nothing unusual in Arizona history.
Laws were put in place for mining, ranching and agriculture long before there were any cities with 1 million or even 50,000 population, Moss noted.
Moss said California farmers are facing restrictions in their allocation from the Colorado River as the water level at Lake Mead continues to drop. It’s currently at 1,079 feet, and there will be cutbacks when the level hits 1,075 feet, 1,050 feet and 1,025 feet.
California is creating more pressure on farmers, which is why they will continue to move into Mohave County and pump water from our basins, Moss said.
Along with efforts to recharge the aquifers, local government should focus on conservation methods, the supervisor added.
The county has made great strides in that direction, including adopting an ordinance last year that outlines requirements for reclaimed water use on golf courses, manmade lakes, swimming pools and other areas where copious amounts of water is used.